My employee has a mental health problem: what can I do?

Alan Price – Chief Operations Officer

October 05 2021

Right now, one in six UK workers are dealing with a mental health problem.

And when an employee has a condition like depression or anxiety – or any illness – you have a duty of care to support them. If you don’t, their wellbeing and performance at work could seriously suffer.

The good news is, there are simple and cost-effective steps you can take to help. 

And since World Mental Health Day is around the corner, there’s no better time to learn how to support your staff…

1) Learn to talk about mental health

Talking about mental health can be daunting.

When staff discuss their mental health with their employer, it’s a big step for them. So when it happens, it’s essential they feel supported and respected.  

To do this, you should train your managers to have sensitive conversations about mental health. According to mind.org, managers should make sure they:

  • Find a private spot to talk in confidence.
  • Asking simple, non-judgemental, and open-ended questions.
  • Avoid making assumptions about mental health.
  • Be flexible around the individual and avoid a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.
  • Develop an ‘action plan’ which covers how their condition could impact their work, who they can reach out to, and what support they need.

An e-learning course or a training day can help managers prepare for sensitive conversations. Role-playing conversations in advance can also help managers feel prepared.

2) Make workplace adjustments

Mental health can affect people in many different ways. That’s why you need to carefully listen to your employee’s concerns and adjust their role around their specific needs.

Depending on your employee’s situation, workplace adjustments could include:

  • Changing shift times and updating the rota. For example, you could take your employee off night shifts or make sure they regularly have at least consecutive days off.
  • Introducing flexible working hours. This could support staff who struggle with their sleep by allowing them to start work once they’re well rested.
  • Altering their workspace, like providing a private or quieter space to work.
  • Relaxing absence rules and limits for staff struggling with mental health.
  • Providing paid time off for mental health appointments, such as therapy sessions.
  • Allowing staff to work from home on a part-time or permanent basis.

3) Change your employee’s role

Your employee’s condition might be affecting their ability to focus. And if that means they struggle to stay on top of their workload, it can make any conditions even worse – particularly if they’re dealing with stress.

So, to support your employee, you could change their role.

You could do this by reallocating their tasks or changing their job description. Alternatively, you could redeploy your employee to a more suitable – like a less demanding – job.

Whether you’re making a permanent or temporary change, make sure you update their contract. To avoid any confusion, provide a letter which outlines any changes and ask your employee to sign it.

Remember, your employee knows their own mental health best. So, ask your employee about their needs and work together to find the best possible outcome.

4) Provide on-the-job support

Work can feel overwhelming for anyone at times. And if your employee is dealing with a mental health condition, a seemingly small issue can feel like a major hurdle.

To support your employee, make it clear they can always turn to you or a dedicated staff member for help. Put into practise, this means:

  • Holding regular catch-ups and checking whether your employee is managing their workload.
  • Providing constructive feedback on their work.
  • Offering practical advice to help them overcome any work obstacles.
  • Offer ‘debriefing’ sessions after any difficult challenges, like a tricky sales call or a tough project.

5) Offer professional third-party support

Some mental health conditions are complex. And while you want to do all you can to support your employee, you don’t always have enough time or expertise to help.

But with an Employee Assistance Programme, staff enjoy round-the-clock access to professional counselling – while you focus on your business. So while you free up your time, your staff can speak to an expert who’s trained in mental health support.

From expert mental health policies to unlimited wellbeing support, discover our affordable HR package today.

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